Marketers love "best practice."
It informs the way we design our sites, gives us ideas for optimizations and A/B tests, and justifies our investment in new campaigns and strategies.
And it's comfortable. So much of what we do is about creativity and innovation that the simplicity of following best practice can be an incredibly tempting thing.
Unfortunately, stepping blindly along the best practice path often ends in tears - an investment of time and resources into something which, ultimately, was only a best practice for somebody else.
Here are two very different case studies which showcase how best practice sometimes fails, and how creativity and going against the business norm can work in your favour.
Vendio adds steps to the sales process
Vendio, an ecommerce software provider, believed for years (as many businesses do) that keeping your sales funnel as short as possible decreases the chance that your prospective registrants will drop off within it.
It's best practice.
Nonetheless, they were concerned that having form fields at their first touchpoint was scaring prospective leads away. They decided to remove the form and test a multi-step conversion process, in which the page's CTA would send traffic to a form-specific page.
As a result, The variation page, which removed the signup form from the landing page and added a step to the conversion funnel, had a 60% higher conversion rate than the control.
Your business must find the balance between keeping your funnels short enough that people don't lose interest within them, and long enough that you're not throwing everything at them as soon as they arrive on your page.
Vendio's target market is an interesting one: somewhere between savvy marketer (who knows they'll likely be giving lead information and may just want to get it over with) and newcomer wanting to set up their first ecommerce site (who might be turned off by the lead-gen form right away).
This is just one example of how important it is to design for your market, and test for it too.
Xerox goes outside of their target market
On the other side of the market we have an example about as out of the box as it gets, and a huge kudos has to go to the team behind it.
The team at the New Zealand branch of Fuji Xerox had run into a challenge when generating excitement for their new HD printer.
Steven Caunce, Corporate Affairs Manager, said it this way: "The products that we're selling, they're not sexy products. We're not selling a new iPhone or luxury cars."
Traditionally then, Fuji Zerox would have gone with the standard best practice: sales associates would have engaged in exhausting calls, product tours and endless emails trying to drum up excitement for something they felt little genuine excitement for.
As a result, instead of falling back on "best practice," the team broke the mold and ran a fashion show.
They engaged with a fashion school and prompted students to create fashionable designs from the paper and other materials which their new printer could work with. They promoted this work to existing clients with a direct mail campaign (a lookbook also created in the printer) - and invited them to an evening of fashion.
As a result of this innovative campaign, the New Zealand branch of Fuji Xerox accounted for 240% of the branch's sales target at the three month mark and 328% at the five month mark. The branch accounted for 34% of the Asia-Pacific total for the three-month launch phase despite making up less than 1% of the region.
One of the strongest aspects of this campaign was how its innovative approach inspired both the prospective consumer and the team who coordinated it.
Going against the norm -- against best practice -- as Fuji Xerox did above is a great way to re-invigorate your team. Sticking with the traditional techniques may work, but it doesn't excite.
Above all, the reason this strategy worked as well as it did was because of how different it was. They showcased their product, but more than that they showcased their own creativity.
Of course best practices are best practices for a reason, and they shouldn't be ignored or forgotten. Yet they are simply a great foundation from which to work, not the way to build something beautiful. Innovation, thinking outside the box, and, above all, testing best practices for your own business, your own audience, and your own objectives - that's how you find success.
We know that one of the fundamental tenets of entrepreneurship and business success is doing something new, or doing something old in a new way. Why would marketing be any different?
Ali Tajskandar is the CEO of Wishpond, a startup in Vancouver, BC. Wishpond's marketing platform incorporates lead generation software with marketing automation into one easy-to-use complete marketing suite.
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